Let’s Talk About Food, 2011

(I meant to post this yesterday but I didn’t finish it before I went to bed.)

Along the DCR Cambridge Parkway today, the Museum of Science and its sponsors held the “Let’s Talk About Food” festival.

I didn’t go last year. I had never even heard of it until about two weeks ago when I saw an ad banner for it inside a Red Line subway car.

The blurb on the official homepage says this about the festival:

We all eat. Rich or poor. Several times a day –– if we can. Food is the central feature of human society.  Food forms the basis of our cultural traditions, creates community, optimizes or sabotages our health, affects our environment, provides livelihoods, impacts our global economy, and nourishes the next generation.
Food has become a major focus in our society. And what we’ve learned is: People want to talk about it. They want to know. They want to learn. And they like to eat.
Launched in Boston 2010, in dynamic partnership with the Museum of Science, Let’s Talk About Food Initiative hopes to become a national, educational, event driven, organization that creates programs to increase the level of public literacy about all aspects of our food system – from sustainability, to cooking, to obesity and other food-related health issues, to fishing and farming, food access, food justice, food safety, environmental concerns, agriculture and nutrition policy, and at the same time celebrates the richness that good food brings to our world.

I went with my sister and my mom. After some discussion, we decided that we wanted to be there by 10:40a for the main stage demo called “In the Spotlight: Cooking with Honey” which was led by Chef Charles Draghi (Erbaulce) and Christy Hemenway (Gold Star Honeybees). Due to our bus schedule, we ended up at the festival at about 10:15a. Even though it technically opened at 10am, an early morning storm seemed to slow everyone down. We probably should have hit up more vendor booths at that time, most of them were set up, but it was so muddy that we just headed over to the main stage tent. Over there, we spent some time at the Whole Foods tent sampling a biscotti-looking snack made from dates, raisins, and other wholesome goodness. The Whole Foods tent was also giving out organic apples and re-useable Whole Foods backpack (it’s the kind of tote where you pull the cords to close it and then slip your arms through to cords to wear as a backpack).

During “Cooking with Honey,” we were shown a couple of ways to work raw honey into recipes. The first recipe was a Parmesan snack. First, you grate some Parmesan rind and fry it in a pan until it cooks into a wafer (and flip to quickly cook the other side). Then, you top the wafer with fresh apples or fresh pears (feel free to spice up the fruit with nutmeg or anything you’re in the mood for). Finally, spoon some raw honey on top to finish, and serve. Chef Draghi said that this snack would pair well with a nice rosé. The second recipe given (but not demonstrated) was a summer drink: 2T raw honey and 1 tsp lemon juice mixed into 16 oz fizzy water, served with mint leaves muddled/crushed.

I got to sample the Parmesan wafer. It was good but I’m not a huge cheese lover so I found the parm flavor to be a little too strong. Also, noticed that I was allergic to the raw honey since I do not consuming it regularly enough to build up a tolerance to the pollen inside it.

Next to take the stage was Chef Jody Adams of Rialto! She and Governor Deval Patrick showed us a way to serve lobster (which smelled divine even from the audience seats… trust me). They were a lot of fun to watch – friendly interactions and humor.

Here’s a photo of Jody Adams after putting a Rialto chef’s jacket onto Deval Patrick. Sorry it’s a crappy photo. I forgot to grab a camera on my way out so this is picture was taken with a phone.

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shiso/wine/soy sauce chicken with steamed veggies

As for last week’s CSA, I steamed my baby turnips and kohlrabi. I peeled the skin off the kohlrabi but I should have peeled a little deeper. It was quite fibrous and hard to chew. Flavor-wise, the two veggies are very similar: very clean tasting and a sweet. I preferred the turnips over the kohlrabi. The turnips were very delicate in texture, while the kohlrabi probably could have steamed a minute or two longer. In addition to being more fibrous, the flavor of kohlrabi seemed duller to me.

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edible garden, no. 3, 2011

First of all, no comments on my bad transplanting technique, if you please.  It’s the result of growing seeds in re-purposed take-out containers.  I realized much later that separating the babies was going to be impossible.  So, I plopped them down as is.  Next year, I will definitely invest in some biodegradeable pots for seedlings.  Plus, I think it’ll be good for experimenting with succession planting.

Anyway, let’s get down to the garden update!

These little things are zucchini!  I’m so happy.  I had two packets of zucchini seeds, one I bought last year of a faster growing variety and one that my mom’s friend gave me.  I planted the ones I was given just to see if they would grow – the packet was from 2008-2009.  I figured that my worst case scenario was being left with dead seeds and then planting the faster growing variety later.  I put down four seeds and two came up.  I suspect that I’ll snip down the one on the right next week.  Zucchini needs a lot of space to grow, but I am waiting to see which of the seedlings ends up being the stronger plant.  (err, yes there is a small hole in the dirt behind the right seedling.  I moved my plant nanny further out before any roots could start growing around it, and did not refill the hole before taking the picture.)

The little plant in the background toward the left is a random seedling of bak choy.  I didn’t know where else to put it.  I figure that it’ll grow up before zucchini does, so I stuck it in the same pot.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how fast they both grow.

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edible garden, no. 1, 2011

GERMINATION!

I’m stupidly excited. Seeds were planted on Sunday. The first signs of life showed up yesterday in the re-purposed strawberry container that is holding purslane. The purslane seeds I bought are a different variety than what grows wildly here – Goldberg Golden Purslane (Portulaca oleracea sativa). According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds website, it is:
“Crisp and mild. Much larger than the wild form. Pick as needed to within 2” of the base; new stems and leaves regrow. Known as “verdolaga” in Latin America. Sensitive to frost. After spring frost danger, sow about 1/2″ apart in the row, cover 1/4″. Thin to 4-6″ apart. Can also be transplanted. Avg. 65,000 seeds/oz. MINI: 0.15 gm., avg. 350 seeds, sows 15′. Mini: 350 seeds.” It is heat tolerant and good for salad mixes.

Purslane has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy veggie, which is why I decided to grow it. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. I’ve only ever tasted the leaves, but I liked it.

As of tonight, I decided that the baby purslane was cute enough to photograph. I noticed that some of the other seeds have germinated today – my micro salad mix, mizuna, and bak choy. Shiso has yet to show signs of life. But they all kind of look the same right now, all a very pale green. Meanwhile, baby purslane is orange/red. ^_^

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this is not a food post?

Well, technically it’s not.

Yesterday, I finally got around to planting some seeds. I’m starting with:
a mirco green mix
mizuna
bak choy
purslane
shiso

Yes, I’m a little late to start. I’ve either been busy and away from the house or it’s been raining. Better a little late than a lot late, or even worse never.

Perhaps next weekend, I think I’ll start the seeds for zucchini. Then in June, I’ll start the seeds for kale.

Trying to grow an edible garden is completely foreign to me. Gardening in general just isn’t my thing but having fresh produce is extremely appealing.

I’m going for a container garden right now, in case anyone was wondering. If I don’t completely fail at it, I might step up for a raised bed next year.

Photos to come when I start to see something growing!

P.S.  I found another nice link with a table of “what’s in season”.  I think this one is a little easier to read.

http://www.farmfresh.org/learn/harvestcalendar.php?zip=02474

what to buy and when

I thought this was pretty nifty for anyone looking to cook with seasonal ingredients. The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School has published a quick reference guide for the New England area (and another guide for the Mid-Atlantic area) that gives a run-down of the fruits and vegetables that are in season by month. The aim here is to encourage people to purchase and eat more locally grown produce.
http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/pocket_guides.html

The full New England guide can be found on:
http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/food_ne.html
which includes hyperlinks to detailed information, like nutritional info and storage info, about the produce of your choice.

It’s hard to find, but there are a few recipes posted as well.  Luckily for you, I did all the sleuthing so you don’t have to.
http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/recipes.html
There are even two recipes from Dan Barber of Blue Hill.  Have fun! ^_^